Sharice Davids, an openly gay Native American woman and professional mixed-martial arts fighter, won a crowded Democratic primary in Kansas late Tuesday night, putting her one step closer to becoming the first Native American woman in Congress. Davids bested candidates including Brent Welder, a Bernie Sanders-endorsed progressive, and Tom Niermann, a high school teacher with strong local support. Davids will face off against Kevin Yoder for the 3rd Congressional District’s House seat in November. Davids ran mainly on health care and education issues.
Davids, 38 years old and a first-time candidate, has been endorsed by EMILY’s List, which backs pro-choice women Democrats and has shelled out nearly $700,000 on her race. The ads were criticized by supporters of her opponents—at a Welder event last month, Sanders appeared to target Davids’ backers, saying, “We don’t want to be supportive of candidates who simply raise money from the wealthy and then put 30-second ads on TV.”
Raised by a single mother in a small town near Kansas City, Davids attended several different schools for undergrad before eventually graduating from Cornell Law School. A member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, Davids told Mother Jones on Monday that she ultimately decided to run because she felt there was no one in the race that represented her.
“Frankly, I wasn’t satisfied with the options in front of me,” she said. “I found myself looking around saying, ‘Is there a strong woman candidate?’ I feel like if you’re asking the question of who’s going to do something, you should ask yourself what you can do.”
This year has seen unprecedented numbers of women, LGBT people, and Native Americans running for office. There are three other Native American women running for Congress this cycle, and although her win Tuesday could mean Davids will be the first Native American woman in Congress, she will probably have company: Deb Haaland, a Laguna Pueblo woman running in New Mexico who won her primary in June, is likely to win in November.
“The idea of the number of us going from zero to multiple in Congress is phenomenal,” Davids said. “I am blown away by the possibilities.”
The number of Democratic candidates is unusual in a red state like Kansas, which went 57 percent for President Donald Trump in 2016. However, the 3rd District, which includes Kansas City, narrowly went for Clinton, the only district in the state to do so.